Today I would like to talk about the climb of the roller-coaster known as Bipolar Disorder. The climb, especially being at the top, can be exhilarating. Not only that, the climb down can seem unnecessary in the moment. At that height all you want to do is take in the sights and experience it.
During my Manic Episode, I found myself writing down what I saw in the moment. This can be seen in multiple "tangents" (a short scene in Turn That Thing Around) where I simply took in my surroundings. At the time I thought I was writing my masterpiece about the human condition. Another example was at the very beginning of my first experience with mania, I found myself writing a 5 page essay in just an hour. I was so proud of myself and I wanted to experience that efficiency and drive again. As I got closer to a full blown manic episode that efficiency turned into an unstoppable will to write.
When I was going through therapy, I was told not to read what I created. He said it could spark another episode or hinder my recovery. I thought "but why? It's my masterpiece." What I didn't know was that it was far from the perfect work of art I thought it would be. When I finally was at a point in my recovery to read it, I opened it up and found it locked with a 27 character password, my bank password. I could have taken that as a warning sign, but I didn't. I trudged forward, opened the document and found the unexpected. I had written a letter to my friend Gabe with whom I was supposed to drive from Cleveland to NH with the next day. The letter professed that I was unwell and unfit to drive the next day. The language and the way it was structured really scared me. It went all over the place at times and it was overall just hard to read... I turned the digital page and found my masterpiece was in fact four pages of tangential, jumbled-up nonsense. It looked like I had written to myself in code. It was upsetting to say the least that my masterpiece was a mess of ideas and observations from the trip to Cleveland.
At that point in the episode however was not the peak of it all. The peak of the episode was when Gabe and I found ourselves in a rest stop outside of Boston. I had lost so much sleep that I immediately started having Dejavu... Gabe had to hold my hand and tell me it was okay in order for me to get to the bathroom alone. Once we got up to the counter to order food I asked for what I could remember, A Double Quarter Pounder. The employees in their red uniforms all looked at me funny, so I asked again for a double quarter pounder. Gabe put his hand on my shoulder and said that we were at Arby's... I looked around and the employees were all still there in new uniforms with a new menu...
At this moment I had reached my breaking point and there was no going back. I like to talk about it that I went too high... now the drop was more than I could manage. This peak of the episode had me with a dangerous level of no sleep, I had hardly eaten, and without Gabe I would have been stranded or worse. Gabe got me to NH to my father who was eagerly awaiting his chance to help. The manic portion of the epiode lasted for about two weeks. This was an amount of time that the professionals in New Hampshire thought I wouldn't come back from. In that state hospital in New Hampshire I was treated like a dangerous animal. I wasn't allowed to use knives, even plastic ones, and I was confined away from others whenever I was overly scared or agitated. What really got me in that state were the automatic blood pressure machines. The pain from the squeezing made me think it would never stop. When I would ask for them to do it by hand they would just say loudly "Non-complaint" and leave me alone in the solitary room. Luckily my family was fortunate enough to be able to get me transferred to Northwestern Memorial in Chicago. There I was treated as a human being. Instead of giving up on me they would say things like, "Aaron, the way you are talking and being unable to concentrate would seem to be manic. Do you think you can try to stay with us and concentrate?" or my favorite would be "What would you like for lunch? You can have anything on the menu!"
After a week and a half I was stable enough to go home and continue treatment as an outpatient. I had my memory back and was able to be coherent. At times during the manic episode I wouldn't be able to remember some of the things that went on. After three more weeks as an outpatient I finally was healthy enough to take a trip (on a plane this time) to New Hampshire to thank Gabe and get a taste of what I missed. What I didn't know is that I had a rough 20+ months ahead of me in the depressive cycle of Bipolar Disorder.
More to come in a few days, thanks for checking in!
Aaron Harris Woodstein